La prensa

More Responsible Retailer Programs Needed in South Bay

liquor stores
Author: La Prensa
Created: 08 March, 2024
Updated: 11 March, 2024
4 min read

By Sarah Boyer
South Bay Program Manager
Institute for Public Strategies

The City of Imperial Beach set a great example of how communities should handle alcohol-related issues when it began its Responsible Retailer Program (RRP) about 15 years ago.

The RRP was started out of necessity in response to concerns surrounding alcohol-related incidents and crimes stemming from liquor sales at retail stores, bars and restaurants. Patrons were being overserved, alcoholic beverages were being sold to minors, and there was an increase in drunk driving arrests.

The RRP has not only transformed the retail alcohol landscape of Imperial Beach, but has set an example for neighboring municipalities of Chula Vista, National City, Coronado and San Diego to do the same.

Businesses that serve alcohol on the premises and retailers that sell it for consumption off site, must get a business certificate from the city in addition to the license from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).

The city’s business certificate places special conditions on alcohol sellers, requiring them to send all employees to a specialized training course per state law. It’s known as Responsible Beverage Sales and Service Training (RBSS) certified by the ABC.

In addition, the RRP conducts annual inspections of all alcohol outlets, both on-sale and off-sale, to ensure compliance with ABC regulations.

The key to the program’s success has been a dedicated compliance officer to serve as a resource for businesses and a liaison to the RRP while building relationships with owners and employees. This approach is getting tangible results, with a sense of order and responsibility.

Through monitoring and proactive engagement, the officer ensures that all alcohol outlets adhere to stringent compliance measures, thereby safeguarding the community’s well-being.

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Lifelong residents, elected officials, law enforcement and business owners tell stories from the 1970’s, ‘80’s and ‘90s about drug deals happening in the open in public places and parking lots, and the ease of getting alcoholic beverages by minors. Now they say some of the places that were on the wild side years ago have calmed down a lot as a result of the program.

The officer gets a copy of all arrest reports for driving under the influence in Imperial Beach and cross-checks them with the arrestee’s place of last drink. If a bar has more than one DUI connected to it, the officer pays them a visit to make sure there are no violations.

The RRP is more than just enforcement. It creates a collaboration, uniting law enforcement and community organizations in a shared pursuit of public safety. By engaging in community outreach initiatives and actively participating in substance use prevention efforts, the RRP cultivates a sense of collective responsibility, empowering residents to become active stakeholders in making a safer, healthier environment.

The journey toward more secure and vibrant communities in the South Bay is far from over. South Bay would benefit from a widespread adoption of similar programs that utilize a paid compliance officer to monitor and support both on- and off-sale alcohol retailers in staying compliant with local and state laws. This multi-component program involves a combination of education and enforcement efforts and places specific requirements on alcohol retailers.

The alcohol enforcement officer has engaged in community involvement activities, including speaking to high school students, participating in teen drunk driving awareness classes, and collaborating with crime and substance use prevention efforts.

South Bay residents and city officials can contact IPS South Bay through its website for details on how to get involved and start an RRP.

IPS works alongside communities to build power, challenge systems of inequity, protect health and improve quality of life. IPS has a vision for safe, secure, vibrant and healthy communities where everyone can thrive.

To learn more about IPS South Bay, check out the website at and follow on social media platforms Instagram and Facebook. South Bay Youth 4 Change (SBY4C) is on Instagram and Facebook. Follow Envision Broadway on its website, Instagram and Facebook. Resources and services are available to assist with screening, treatment, and recovery for individuals with a substance use disorder via the Access & Crisis line, which is open year-round, 24/7 at (888) 724-7240 or dial 988.

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